I’m a psychic.*
Close your eyes. Send me your thoughts. Now, let me describe you:
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.
In 1948 Psychologist Bertram R. Foyer gave students a personality test and then delivered the above paragraph as a personalized analysis of their results. Every student received the same paragraph. He had lifted it from a local paper’s astrology column.
He found that most people felt like that description was highly accurate (over 80%). His results have been replicated multiple times with similar results.
The technical name for this phenomena now bears his name: the Forer Effect.
It turns out that if someone suggests some ambiguous detail as specifically defining us, we have a natural disposition to rate it as highly accurate even if it generally could be applied to anyone (meaning it’s not actually distinctive!).
While outside of your horoscope this typically isn’t a problem, it is a reminder of how subconsciously suggestible we all can be.
As a rule, beware of vague compliments and personality tests from strangers in general. One thing the psychology literature has been clear on is that we have many identities, which makes for lots of ways can easily be distracted or misled.
Embrace your complexity.
We all contain multitudes.
*I’m not a psychic, but if I were, I’d like to be as entertaining as Miss Cleo – just without the whole criminal part.